New Zealand’s Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has come under fire after using the word ‘c*nt’ during her speech at an anti-racism rally on Friday last week. Highlighting how often it was used in death threats against her, she stated that it had been used to abuse women for too long.
Various New Zealand MPs have expressed outrage at her use of the word, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters calling her language ‘appalling’ and ‘terribly degrading’. While other MPs have highlighted that she should not have used the language at a public event attended by children, members of the public have come out in support of her decision to reclaim the word.
Defending her speech, she told Newshub, ‘I stand by using that word. That word is a powerful word for women and shouldn’t be used as abuse’ later tweeting, ‘if women get called the _C_ word by men who are trying to death threat us into silence and intimidation - the least we can do is disarm the word and claim it back. _C_ is for Cheers.’
This year, Tory Peer Baroness Jenkin became the first person to use the word ‘c*nt’ in UK parliament, with Labour MP Mhairi Black also using it a few months later to highlight the online abuse she receives every day. During a debate around making misogyny a hate crime, she said ‘I could soften some of this by talking about the 'c-word' but the reality is there is no softening when you're targeted with these words and you're left reading them on my screen every day, day in, day out.
‘”She needs a kick in the cnt, guttural cnt, ugly cnt, wee animal cnt” - there is no softening just how sexualised and misogynistic the abuse is.’
The misogynistic use of the word is no new development, nor is the effort to reclaim it, but the fact that ‘c*nt’ is still the most offensive word in the English language is extremely telling about how our society views women. More than that, as we continue to give it this level of power by being so shocked and offended by it's use, it has a long-term impact on the way women view their genitalia and bodies.
‘There are far more negative words for female than male genitalia,’ says Jennifer Saul, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, ‘Indeed it's really hard to think of words for female genitalia that aren't either medical or negative. And this kind of thing can really shape the way one sees oneself and one's body.
‘Being able to talk about your genitalia is really important to your well-being, especially to sexual communication. Not having positive words to use makes that communication much harder and can contribute to the sense of shame around sexuality that's so destructive.’
It is the hope of many feminists that ‘c*nt’ will at some point be reclaimed and therefore not possible to use against women, as Jennifer says has happened with the word ‘queer’.
‘Positive usage [of the word c*nt] is so far confined to pretty small circles,’ she continued, ‘but it may well spread as “queer” was once just a pejorative but has now become very widely used in a positive way. Although it must be admitted that the negative use hasn't completely died out’
So, will you choose to reclaim the word from misogynistic abusers? Given how body-positive it clearly is, we can already envision it popping up all over our Instagram feeds at any minute...